(Today’s column is the first in a series focusing on our local first responders, both in law enforcement and fire services, who rose to the top or next to the top in the Fontana Police Department, Fontana Sheriff’s substation and the various iterations of Fire Department protection in Fontana. We’ll begin with one of the finest Fontana Success Stories, my good friend and sometimes fellow golfer, Frank Scialdone.)
Frank has been my friend for more than 50 years. We met in Mr. Hicks’ English class at Chaffey College, where we both struggled mightily from being weeded out as a “doesn’t belong in college” student. We knew OF each other at Fontana High School in 1966-67, but we didn’t really KNOW each other.
Frank spent 31 years in law enforcement in Fontana, rising from patrolman in 1973 to chief of police from 1999-2004. After retirement, Frank spent six years on the Fontana City Council, including seven months as mayor. As with every Fontana Success Story featured thus far, as we will see, Frank’s parents’ work ethic greatly influenced his ability to succeed. Now, his story:
—– FRANK is not a tall man. In fact, he was teased relentlessly for his short stature, especially for a cop.
However, his size did not stop him from taking on suspects much bigger than he. I recall seeing him subdue a very large, very drunk neighbor of mine by simply applying a pressure hold on the man’s fingers and “escorting” him back into his apartment.
Frank is a proud Fohi ’67 graduate. He is also proud of the time he served as chief with two other ’67 grads (Tim Ousley and Stan Bennett), who served under his command as captains. He also served with Fohi ’74 grad and future chief (and my former student), Captain Larry Clark.
A Daily News article about Frank when he retired included the following: “Frank moved here with his family from Ohio when he was 2 years old. He grew up in the area south of Foothill Boulevard near Tamarind Avenue when Fontana had just one high school. Scialdone remembered a rural town with grape vineyards and farms to the south, and sagebrush on the north side. ‘My friends and I would take our .22 rifles, walk down the center of town to Jurupa Hills, sit down there and plunk with .22 rifles and walk back to our houses,’ Scialdone said. ‘We were 9 or 10 years old. Nobody bugged us.”
In preparation for his career, Frank earned a Bachelor’s degree in Criminology from Cal State Long Beach in 1971 and joined the Fontana P.D. in 1973. Frank is also a graduate of the prestigious FBI Academy.
The Daily News article continued, “A 31-year career in the department provided plenty of anecdotes about life as a cop and the relationships formed with fellow officers and the community. One man a few years ago introduced himself to Scialdone as the toddler Scialdone once helped after he fell out of a two-story apartment window.”
“Somehow that connection was made, and he remembered,” Scialdone said.
He said sometimes that’s not a positive thing.
Scialdone once ticketed the man who was instrumental in getting the bust of President John F. Kennedy placed in front of City Hall. Scialdone said the Department of Motor Vehicles eventually required the man to take his driver’s exam again, and when he failed, the department revoked his license.
“Until the day he died he hated my guts,” Scialdone said. “So, it works both ways.”
—– IN PREPARATION for this article, Frank wrote:
“While working at the P.D. I earned a Master of Arts Degree from Cal Poly Pomona and also graduated from the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training Command College.
I was also a Police Explorer for the P.D. I was one of the first 25 when they came recruiting for the Post at Fohi. This was my junior year at Fohi.
After retirement I was the Interim Police Chief for Rialto P.D. for eight months and Pasadena City College for 19 months. I also taught leadership to new police lieutenants through the Long Beach State Criminal Justice Institute for eight years.
Some of my fondest recollections include mentoring employees and watching them grow in their careers.
Also, another highlight was collaborating with the Sheriff’s Department as a detective to rid Fontana of the Ku Klux Klan. This included monitoring their cross burnings and marches and identifying all their members.
Additionally, implementing the Police Department’s Area Commander Program and placing School Resource Officers on all middle school campuses was another career highlight.
My favorite teacher at Fohi was Mr. Dan Golden, who was both the wrestling coach and a counselor. He was a great guy and was always encouraging me. I saw in him what true integrity was. Interestingly, as a young officer, I oversaw the Police Explorer Program, and his daughter was an explorer for me. She went on to become an officer in Huntington Beach.
I owe my success to my parents.
My dad dropped out of school in the 7th grade, but he was one of the smartest people I have known.
My mom dropped out of school in the 9th grade. She became a welder and welded tanks during World War II. Mom always dreamed of becoming a nurse and started achieving that goal by attending and graduating from Adult School at Fohi. She went on to be a nurse’s aide and LVN. She finally achieved her goal and became an RN. She retired from Kaiser Hospital as the night shift supervisor for all RNs. When she retired, she went to work at County Hospital and worked until she was 78. She would work 60 hours a week.
My mom and dad’s work ethic is what I admired most, and their push and desire for me to succeed. I was an only child, but our neighborhood was full of kids my age, so we were always out doing things, playing baseball (and doing other things I will leave out!)
Life was good and fun as a kid. My best friend’s dad, Vince Alamia, was a Fontana officer and that is where I got the bug. He would give us rides on the rear of the PD’s three-wheel motorcycle, which we loved! (OK, I know! Today, that would make us cringe for liability reasons).”
Frank Scialdone is just one of many Fontana Success Stories who put their lives on the line every day for decades. And, as with most of our stories, he is one of my local heroes.